A quick look back at 2011

Well another year has come and gone, so how was 2011? It’s always going to be difficult to juggle birding with an unflexible full time job and family stuff, so for me seeing 5 new British birds was far better than I’d expected. They were: Oriental Turtle Dove, White-throated Robin, American White-winged Scoter, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Greater Yellowlegs. Plus 2 armchair ticks in the shape of Hudsonian Whimbrel and Siberian Stonechat, taking my BOU British list up to 433. I added a few birds to my Cumbria list, best of the bunch was without doubt the Buff-breasted Sandpiper near Arnside in September. My year list ended up at a paltry 193 – long gone are my days of getting 300+!!!

The year got off to a flying start when I found a Green-winged Teal on New Years Day – such an exciting bird to find- not! Also in January I connected with my 2nd Coues’s Arctic Redpoll at Rainton Meadows…

In March I finally pulled in the long-staying Oriental Turtle Dove at Chipping Norton whilst visiting relatives down south….

Spring wader passage was pretty good, especially when I found my 2nd Broad-billed Sandpiper. Clapping eyes on this beauty is what patch birding is all about…

By contrast the much anticipated skua passage was pants, that is until the 23rd May, a day that I will never forget. A huge storm brought with it all 4 skua species and the unbelievable sight of a flock of 44 Long-tailed Skuas. Skua heaven on the Solway, does birding get any better than this??….

During flaming June things hotted up even more, my fortnights holiday luckily coincided with the arrival of a White-throated Robin in Cleveland, which in my eyes was almost overshadowed by the nearby male Red-backed Shrike….

Just ten days later I travelled up to Northeast Scotland on what was without doubt my favourite trip of the year. The target was American White-winged Scoter, and this was soon in the bag, with a supporting cast of drake Surf Scoters, lots of Velvet Scoters and a stunning drake King Eider…

A singing Western Bonelli’s Warbler had me heading to Derbyshire early in July. It was easy enough to hear, but it was a tricky blighter to get views of. Eventually I left satisfied and this long overdue species was finally added to my list.

Return wader passage on the Solway got under way during July and August, but despite regular checking and thousands of birds to search through, it seems that no rarities could be found. Very disappointing. In fact, late summer and early autumn was a very lean time for me, and it was until 25th September that I saw something decent. Mind you, it was worth waiting for, a superb Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the south of the county near Arnside…

My fortnights holiday in October was very poor for birds, with all the good stuff either on Scillies (which I just can’t afford anymore), or Shetland. A showy Pec in the south of the county was seen….

….but a stunning juvenile Pallid Harrier in Ayrshire was the best bird for me during this period.

During the last two months of the year I had a few trips over to the east coast, firstly for a Greater Yellowlegs at Hauxley…

Then an Eastern Black Redstart on Holy Island…

And finally a really showy Desert Wheatear at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea…

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